Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S.-Taiwan Relations
DE RUEHIN #2606/01 3472226
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 132226Z DEC 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7590
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7530
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8807
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 002606
DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - NIDA EMMONS
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: U.S.-TAIWAN RELATIONS
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused news
coverage December 13 on an Austrian base jumper who jumped from the
Taipei 101 skyscraper Tuesday; on the 2008 presidential election and
the UN referendum; and on the aftermath of the abrupt closing of the
largest health club chain in Taiwan Monday. The pro-independence
"Liberty Times" ran a banner headline on page two that said "Frank
Hsieh: No Way Bian Will Influence Me after May 20, 2008."
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a "Liberty Times"
editorial said the U.S. opposition to Taiwan's UN referendum will
only aggrieve the Taiwan people but gladden China. A "Liberty
Times" commentary slammed AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt's recent
remarks on Taiwan's UN referendum, saying Washington's worry about
Taiwan's peaceful change of leadership is the biggest humiliation
for Taiwan's democracy. A separate "Liberty Times" analysis said
Washington is eager to seek commitments from Taiwan's new president.
Editorials in the two pro-independence, English-language dailies --
"Taipei Times" and "Taiwan News" -- also chimed in by criticizing
Washington for insulting Taiwan's democracy. A column in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" said what President Chen Shui-bian
has done has resulted in the souring of Washington-Taipei ties. An
analysis in the centrist, KMT-leaning "China Times" said the United
States has already set the tone for Taiwan's future direction. An
analysis in the pro-unification "United Daily News" said Washington
will not allow President Chen to do whatever he pleases. An
editorial in the conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post," however, urged Taiwan to heed the U.S.'s admonition.
A) "The United States' Opposition to [UN] Referendum Will Only
Aggrieve [the Taiwan] People and Gladden the Enemy"
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000]
"... The question is: Why did the United States have such sensitive
reactions to Taiwan's UN referendum? ... Why did the United States
turn a blind eye to China's 'alteration of the status quo' why
focusing its criticism against Taiwan's UN referendum? Of course
the United States has its practical reasons. Just as Thomas
Christensen stated, 'the United States believes that the UN
referendum is a force for tension and instability, and where tension
and instability leads is difficult to predict,' the answer is that
the consequences will be 'difficult to predict,' and the
'hard-to-predict consequences' refers to China's reaction and
action. In other words, the national and military strengths of
China have grown so powerful now that they make it difficult for the
United States to decide whether it wants' to wage war against China
at any cost.' ...
"The shrewd and calculating United States is certainly aware of the
growth and decline in the military and economic powers between China
and the United States. But China is no longer as weak as it was
before, and this is the reason why Washington is afraid that Taiwan
will create excuses for China to invade the island, and why
Washington, despite the spirit of freedom and democracy that it
upheld when the United States was founded, has gone against its
judgment of right and wrong and insisted on opposing Taiwan's UN
"We are clearly aware that it is not because the Americans have
confused right and wrong or reversed good and evil that they decided
to oppose Taiwan's UN referendum; they do so because of their
realistic consideration. But the United States is, after all, the
defender of democracy in the world; given that Taiwan is a new
democratic country, the United States really should not abandon its
founding ideals of democracy and freedom, tilt toward totalitarian
China, and take actions that are unfavorable for Taiwan. In
addition, Taiwan's security is closely related to the U.S.'s
interests and peace and stability in the Western Pacific. This
newspaper hopes that the United States will seriously consider how
to support Taiwan's democracy at this critical moment, rather than
being the reason that causes Taiwan's democracy to move backward."
B) "Pronouncements of Lord Burghardt"
The "Free Talks" column in the pro-independence "Liberty Times"
[circulation: 720,000] wrote (12/13):
"The U.S. approach in opposing the UN referendum seemed to have
gotten coarser and rasher. Besides the thoughtless comments
previously made by U.S. State Department officials, AIT Chairman
Raymond Burghardt, during his recent visit to Taiwan, also put on
the airs of an imperial envoy from the metropole by 'lecturing [and]
admonishing' the incumbent president and two presidential candidates
of our country, respectively, and drawing a red line for them. ...
"Lord Burghardt also said the UN referendum is unfair to, and will
restrict, the new president. Such a remark was truly ridiculous and
inappropriate. A referendum represents the highest direct public
opinion. If the UN referendum fails to pass, surely it will not be
binding for the new president; but if it passes, the new president
will have to carry it through, or else he will violate the spirit of
democracy. It is unlikely that Burghardt, who comes from an
advanced democracy, is unaware of such simple common sense of
democracy. It is totally unimaginable that he, instead, requested
that the Taiwan public accept such an undemocratic order from the
metropole to oppose the UN referendum.
"Lord Burghardt added that the United States wants to assure a
'peaceful change of leadership.' Such worries [of the United
States] are nothing but the biggest humiliation for Taiwan's
democracy. ... The only possibility of a non-peaceful change of
leadership to happen is, without a doubt, the result of China's
military threats. It would be more appropriate for Washington to
worry about China's next step rather than [worry about] Taiwan."
C) "The United States Is Eager to Seek a Commitment from Taiwan's
Washington correspondent Nadia Tsao said in an analysis in the
pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 720,000] (12/12):
"It is a widely known fact that the United States is opposed to
Taiwan's holding a UN referendum, but it is also a fact that Taiwan
has already launched the procedures to hold such a referendum. The
real intent behind the United States' recent repeated and open
declarations on this issue is to ensure that Ma Ying-jeou and Frank
Hsieh will not use the referendum results to further push for
writing Taiwan independence into the Constitution or change Taiwan's
national title in 2008. In other words, Washington cannot wait to
seek a commitment from Taiwan's 'new president.' ..."
D) "Does the US Respect Democracy?"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
300,000] editorialized (12/13):
"Taiwan may not have official diplomatic ties with the US, but this
shouldn't mean that Taiwan's president, or his successor next year,
should be treated with any less respect by US officials. A quick
assessment of American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond
Burghardt's comments during his visit to Taipei this week
demonstrates that the US government still has much to learn about
showing respect to the president of a democracy. ... After telling
local reporters on Monday that 'all it [the referendum] does is
cause trouble,' Burghardt -- in an overtly condescending manner --
told Chen that what the latter had said and done with the referendum
could 'harm the new president's ability to get off on the right
foot.' He added that the referendum would not only make things
difficult for the next president but make things even more
complicated if it passes.
Just because Taiwan lacks official diplomatic ties with the US and
is not recognized as a state by the UN does not give Burghardt
license to lecture Chen on what he should and should not do, nor
draw red lines for the next president on how he should proceed on
cross-strait policy. ... Burghardt said the result of the
referendum would not change Washington's 'one China' policy. That's
fine, since Taiwan is an independent state with its own territory
and currency and a government that is answerable only to Taiwanese.
The referendum is not an attempt to influence US policy. The US
government has often complained about Chen springing surprises on
Washington by making sudden announcements and that the DPP
administration has failed to understand US policy. Granted, Chen has
a tendency to make extemporaneous remarks that warrant more care.
"But beyond that, the lack of official diplomatic links -- and the
calisthenics that this situation has forced Taiwanese diplomats to
perform just to talk to their US counterparts -- is the principal
reason why Taipei hasn't been able to 'get' US policy. Give us
direct access and all that ambiguity, all those misunderstandings,
will vanish. Taiwan cherishes and takes very seriously its
relationship with the US. But by the same token, the US should
respect Taiwan and let its elected president do his job -- represent
Taiwanese and work for their collective good."
E) "U.S. Must Not Insult Taiwan Democracy"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (12/13):
"... However, Burghardt's remarks had no substantive effect in
blocking the vote on the initiative, which should take place
together with the March 22 presidential poll and a competing
referendum sponsored by the opposition Kuomintang on whether to
apply for 'readmission' to the U.N. under the name of the Republic
of China or other feasible names. ... In combination with
Burghardt's statement that the U.S. will not change its 'one-China
policy' regardless of the results of the referendum, observers would
also be justified in wondering whether the U.S. is trying to create
an atmosphere more congenial to opening of negotiations for
'unification or whether these statements indicate that Washington
believes that 'unification' is the 'status quo' and, along with the
Chinese Communist Party and the KMT, aims to exclude the option of
"independence" for the Taiwan people.
"After all, if Washington continues to insist on upholding a
'one-China policy,' there will be little room for Taiwan and the PRC
to hold discussions about anything else besides how to engage in
unification. We therefore believe it is necessary for Washington to
clarify whether pushing Taiwan to abandon its current status of a
democratic and independent state and unify with the PRC is now
official U.S. policy. We also believe the statements by the AIT
chairman demanding that President Chen make commitments to ensure
'peaceful transfer of power' constitute grave insults to President
Chen, the DPP and all of the Taiwan people who struggled against 38
years of KMT-imposed martial law for democracy and human rights.
"We acknowledge that the U.S. played an important role in the
promotion of Taiwan's democratization and continues to make a huge
contribution to the maintenance of Taiwan's security and the
stability and security of the Taiwan Strait. However, we urge
Washington policy makers to realize that the essence of democracy is
to allow the people themselves to face and resolve important issues
that affect their lives, interests and rights, a principle that is
embodied in the guarantee of the right of self-determination
contained in the United Nations covenants on civil and political
rights. We do not expect the governments of the United States or
any other nation to take a stand for or against any referendum or
initiative issue but do expect that a country which styles itself to
be the leader of the world democratic camp should respect the right
of the citizens of a fellow democracy to make their own decisions.
"We frankly find the attempts by the U.S. to pressure our government
to illegally cancel this referendum and its transparent attempts to
stir up domestic opposition through the use of fear tactics to be
both hypocritical and unwise, as the result may well be to create
greater danger to Taiwan's political stability and regional security
than either of the two U.N. referendums could possibly generate. We
urge the U.S. government to follow the example of Nicaraguan
President Daniel Ortega and respect the democratic and legal right
of referendum of the Taiwan people and respect the significance of
the result of the two U.N. related referendums as manifestations of
the collective will and voice of Taiwan's people."
F) "Elephant in the Living Room"
Columnist Antonio Chiang noted in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
[circulation: 520,000] (12/12):
"A-bian has changed his previously tough attitude of speaking out
against the United States and has guaranteed more than once in front
of the chairman of AIT that his Four Noes and One Without pledge
remains unchanged. It is a pity, however, that he has maxed out his
credibility, and none of his pledges is deemed valid. The Americans
have come to regard him as a caretaker president and have placed
their hope on the next president. Their biggest request for A-bian
is that he release his control and give the new president the
opportunity to deal with cross-Strait relations.
"In fact, the souring of Taipei-Washington relations has done severe
damage to Taiwan. All other countries [in the world] look upon and
follow the lead of the United States. The White House's mistrust of
A-bian has directly affected the international community's attitude
toward Taiwan. If the United States decides not to support Taiwan,
no other country will. From Japan to Europe, from the APEC to other
various international organizations, when the effect [of no support]
expands, the damage done to Taiwan will be too great to make up.
G) "The United States Has Set the Tone for Taiwan Ahead of Time"
Journalist Chiang Hui-chen said in an analysis in the centrist,
KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000] (12/12):
"Prior to his departure from Taiwan, Raymond Burghardt again slammed
Bian's playing with the backdoor referendum as 'causing trouble.'
The United States attempted to draw a line between Bian and the
Taiwan people to reduce the possible momentum that might be
generated by the UN referendum. But what is most important is that
Burghardt has smoothly secured commitments from both Ma and Hsieh
that they 'will not seek to interpret or elaborate on the results of
the referendum in the wake of next year's presidential election!'
... The United States' trust in Bian has dropped to the lowest
point, and it has judged that the UN referendum has already burst
out of the box of the 'Four Noes.' It therefore dares not look down
upon Bian's ability to dictate the upcoming campaigns in the next
six months as well as his influence after he steps down. ..."
H) "The United States Shows Its Bargaining Chips: Will Not Allow
Bian to Do Whatever He Pleases"
Journalist Lu De-yun noted in an analysis in the pro-unification
"United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (12/12):
"AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt has visited Taiwan again [for the
second time] in less than six months. Even though his posture as a
career diplomat remains the same, it was unusual to see that he did
not even bother to hide his mistrust of Taiwan's ruler. Not only
did he openly disclose the key points discussed during his meeting
with President Chen, but he also directly stated that Bian's UN
referendum is a violation of the Four Noes pledge. This was just a
showdown in words; without any ruthless remarks, the Americans have
disclosed their bargaining chips: We will not let you continue to
do what you please. ...
"Burghardt has always given high compliments to Taiwan's prosperous
democracy and applauded the peaceful transfer of power in 2000 as a
valuable achievement. But the intent of the United States that he
conveyed during a face-to-face meeting with Bian two days ago was,
unexpectedly, to ensure a peaceful change of leadership. This
indicated that Washington believes that Taiwan's democracy has
regressed, and it does not trust that President Chen is willing to
relinquish his power. Being a big country, the United States would
not use such words to describe its views toward Chen if it has no
sufficient proof in its hands."
I) "Admonition from U.S. Shouldn't Go Unheeded"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (12/13):
"... The U.S. government, worried that these measures [i.e. the UN
referendum] will aggravate tensions across the Taiwan Strait, has
time and again advised President Chen to think twice. ... President
Chen and his men obviously believe that the U.N. referendum will
influence the upcoming presidential election in favor of the ruling
party, for this seems to have been the case during the 2004
presidential poll. Whether this old trick will work again in the
upcoming election is anyone's guess. But one thing is quite
certain: Relations between Taiwan and the U.S. have suffered due to
the DPP government's unyielding attitude on this issue."